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Posts from the ‘Industry Collaboration’ Category

Debate: Internships

Internships: Framing the Conversation

By Mike OdioUniversity of Cincinnati

The past few years have brought many issues surrounding internships to the forefront of the public consciousness. However, much like the controversies involving the amateur status of student-athletes in the NCAA, the prevailing conversation seems to ainternship2lways revolve around whether interns are entitled to compensation. Although important for many reasons, the topic of compensation tends to draw away from the other issues existing in each system. This often turns discussions into a frivolous debate on whether the youth have become too entitled rather than addressing the balance of power in these contexts and the vulnerability of amateur athletes or sport management students, who are advised to repeatedly work for free while networking and guarding their reputation.

In addition to an ongoing debate on compensation, amateurism and internships share several historical similarities. Internships, like amateurism, stem from a 19th century concept that has been borrowed and adapted from its original source. Also like amateurism, internships benefit the privileged and assigned inferior status to those not in power. While I am not advocating for the eradication of amateurism or internships, I believe studying the history of each of these helps to frame the conversations and bring forward the underlying issues that must be addressed. It helps us understand that many of these issues are not new and not unique to our domain. The past few years have seen momentum growing for changing the NCAA’s definition of amateurism, but we in the field of sport management have not been quite as proactive when it comes to internships.

internThe idea of a student performing closely supervised work as part of their training has been enthusiastically adopted by other fields in the 20th century. However, surveying the use of the term internship across professions makes the definition of an internship difficult to peg. This lack of standardization often leads to great opportunities for forward-thinking and creative people who can offer to become an intern for an organization that is not hiring, but it also limits progress in many ways.

Doctoral internships in psychology are rigidly structured with mandates on content and the number of hours a week a student must receive didactic supervision and much more. On the other hand, the term is used by many organizations in politics, journalism, fashion, media, and sport as a temporary or flexible position or as an extended recruitment and selection process with no consistent standards as far as university involvement, duration, number of hours per week, role of the site supervisor, or expected outcomes. Without some amount of standardization any conversation about internships, practicum, field experiences, fellowships, residencies, or any other long-term experiential learning will be inherently limited.

However, as evidenced by the reports of abuse, discrimination and harassment in the medical field, the standardization of internship criteria alone would not resolve many of the issues potentially facing interns in the sport industry. Fortunately, there have been some changes at the local level, and movement at the federal level to protect unpaid interns from some of the abuses since they do not benefit from the protections of employment law. But paid or not, all interns are still vulnerable in other ways.

We, as a field, must begin to evaluate our participation in the process, both through our offering of course credit for internships and our direct relationship with organizations that offer not-for-credit internships that keep people bouncing from organization to organization trying to “break in” to the industry. This conversation may involve the question of compensation, but it should be more comprehensive. We should question all of our practices and assumptions involving why we have internships and how they are operated. And most importantly, whether we strive for some sort of standardization or not, we should be sure to aim for an ethical system that acknowledges the position students and graduates are in when they sign up for an internship.

If you Build it, Will They Come?

 

Developing Strategic Marketing Initiatives for a New Arena in Virginia Beach

By Stephen Shapiro, Old Dominion University

In the Summer of 2015, the Old Dominion University Sport Management program partnered with developer United States Management (USM) in Virginia Beach on a once in a generation experiential learning opportunity. The city of Virginia Beach was proposing an 18,000 seat, $210 million arena located at the Oceanfront. So the developers posed the question to ODU graduate Sport Management students: what would you do with this new arena?

ODU Sport Marketing Dec 2015When this opportunity presented itself, I was extremely excited and worried at the same time. I believe experiential learning is a powerful tool. Many times we present cases to students in class that are focused on situations that occurred in the past or fictional scenarios. This situation provided us a unique opportunity to tell students this initiative is actually happening. The work you do will not just be for a grade…if it’s good enough, it will be implemented. At the same time, how do you go about marketing an arena that does not exist? This was the opportunity and challenge presented to students in the graduate sport marketing course during the Fall of 2015.

The city of Virginia Beach was going through the lengthy process of approving and financing a state of the art sport and entertainment venue that would fill a void in the inventory of facilities within the Hampton Roads region. We sat down with USM, facility designer Clark-Nexsen, representatives from SMG Venue Management, and the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to discuss marketing a new arena. Six strategic initiatives were highlighted: local sponsorships, marketing premium seating, arena/convention center collaboration, marketing non-traditional events, bidding for sporting events, and strategic analysis of comparable facilities without a major sports tenant.

Students were divided into groups to cover each initiative. Over the course of the semester, we had regular meetings with various arena constituents discussing facility design, economic impact, social issues related to arena development, financing, and general management. This was an excellent opportunity for students to see how a project this extensive consists of a multitude of individuals with differing goals and perspectives. Students had to use this information along with conducting an environmental scan, SWOT analysis, and investigation of comparable facilities across the United States to develop strategic plans.

Group 1Students presented their initiatives to all the individuals involved, including representatives from Virginian Beach City Council and the local media on December 9.  Amazingly, this was one day after the city council approved the development of the arena. Student groups focused on assessing bid requirements for potential events like the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Championships, X-Games, and US Figure Skating, which could be hosted at the arena and other facilities in the region. Collaborative and complimentary events between the arena and convention center were suggested, such as a skateboard competitions or a youth wrestling tournament at the convention center paired with a UFC event at the arena. One group focused on the popularity of e-gaming and the connection between these events and our regional demographics.

This was a tremendous experience for our students that has real-world implications.  Although the opportunity to help market a new arena does not happen often, this experience motivated me to search for more opportunities in the local community that allow our students to tackle real-world complex issues in the sport industry. There are so many opportunities for partnerships between sport management programs and sport organizations, which allow students to gain the skills necessary to be competitive in the job market upon graduation.